MORTON, Ill. (WMBD) — A recent study is bringing Illinois’ manufacturing scene to the spotlight for its multi-billion dollar economic impact, and it’s directly affecting the Central Illinois area.

Manufacturing matters, that’s the message of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association as industry leaders tour the state. Wednesday, the tour made a stop at Morton Industries.

“Manufacturing remains the greatest driver of economic progress, innovation, and wealth in our nation,” said Mark Denzler, president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association

According to a recent study conducted by independent economists at the University of South Carolina, manufacturing in Illinois is estimated to have an economic impact of between $580 billion and $611 billion dollars every year. This makes manufacturing the largest share of any industry of the state’s gross domestic product.

“People take the state’s manufacturing sector for granted, but if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the need for a strong American manufacturing sector and supply chain,” Denzler said.

In Peoria County, the study shows manufacturing is estimated to create $12.4 billion dollars in economic output annually, supporting an estimated 30% of the county’s economy. In Tazewell County, this number is around $3.6 billion.

Local leaders said the strong economic numbers aren’t surprising.

“Manufacturing is absolutely the bedrock of our economy in the Peoria area. So much of what we do, from the service industry, retail, industry, relies on the fact that we have as good of manufacturing jobs that we do,” said Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council.

Manufacturing is also directly responsible for more than 662,000 jobs across the state but supports more than 1.7 million jobs overall.

Despite a large number of workers, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a strain on the workforce.

“Before the pandemic started there were about 437,000 open manufacturing jobs nationally, today there are 850,000,” Denzler said.

With jobs within the industry only expected to grow, leaders said training, education, and sharing the advancements in manufacturing are critical.

“It’s not a dead-end job, if you walked out there on the factory floor, it doesn’t feel like any factory you saw in the movies, or in history books, it’s clean, bright safe,” Setti said.

A majority of positions within manufacturing will continue to require a high school diploma or less, and while certifications are important, many manufacturing jobs will train workers on location.